Are humans competitive and aggressive?

2006-02-26

Richard Moore

Friends,

I've been having a dialog with a fellow about about human
nature. He's been expressing the common notion that human
nature is the cause of warfare, destructive competition,
etc. etc. He makes the usual arguments, interpreting
Darwin's results as showing that we live in a dog-eat-dog
competitive world. Below, I'd like to share some thoughts
that I sent to him in our latest exchange.

---

I've been pleased with the responses coming in from early
readers of ETM. Most have been not only positive, but
enthusiastic. I was particularly happy to receive this
mini-review from William Engdahl, whose research and writing
I have considerable respect for:

     Richard Moore's 'Escaping the Matrix' is one of the most
     exciting books of ideas I've read in many years. I couldn't
     put it down until I'd finished. He goes to the root cause of
     the cancer that is destroying life on our planet today. He
     does so with a simplicity that is deceptive and an
     argumentation accessible to anyone of a right mind. His
     proposals for escaping the Matrix are equally simple and at
     the same time profound. This is a book that needs to be
     widely read and debated.
     -F William Engdahl, author, A Century of War, Pluto Press.

---

I've been burning the midnight oil upgrading our websites,
trying to make them a bit more professional looking, and
providing the kind of information reviewers, readers, and
potential readers might want to see. Please let me know if
you have feedback or suggestions. The URLs are:

   http://EscapingTheMatrix.org
   http://cyberjournal.org

This page in particular you might interesting:
   http://cyberjournal.org/rkm/rkm_bio.html

---

Who bombed the mosque and started all the sectarian
fighting, and why? Check out these two excellent articles:

Ghali Hassan: Iraq: Occupation and Sectarianism
   http://cyberjournal.org/cj/show_archives/?id=1042&batch=20&lists=newslog

Dahr Jamail: re/mosque bombing: Who Benefits?
 
http://cyberjournal.org/cj/show_archives/?id='1043'&batch='20'&lists='newslog'

best regards,
rkm

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     > Richard Moore for example says that Darwin's proposal that
     the Fittest Survive was wrong, and that the 'Survival of the
     fittest' idea is a 'myth'. Richard says that Hobbes was also
     wrong  with his "short & brutal" characterization of
     pre-civilized societies.

i've thought more about that exchange.

As regards how nature works - competition vs. cooperation -
it is important to take a look at some of the 'new biology'
literature, such as BIOLOGY REVISIONED, by Willis Harman and
Elisabet Sahtouris. Competition and cooperation interweave,
both operative, both important. This is real science, not
just theorizing. And it is very relevant to 'how we think'.

The question of human aggressiveness is a deep one. By
observing other primates, all of which seem have a
hierarchical social structure, with an alpha male in charge,
we can be sure that's how we were as we were evolving toward
humanness. We might also note that the alpha male's main job
is to protect the group, and he does it with gusto, putting
himself in the face of attackers. He doesn't just exploit
his underlings for all he can get. This is a 'cooperative'
aspect of the scenario. Furthermore, primate bands don't
'conquer' other bands. They have border skirmishes, and
defend their territory, which is very important in keeping
the species in harmony with the carrying capacity of the
environment.

When we watch young boys at play, and fighting with each
other, with sometimes violent tempers, we can see that the
aggressive, competitive streak has never left our genes. Our
genetics has changed only slightly from that of Chimps, and
the part that has changed isn't directly related to
aggressiveness. In this sense, I understand and agree with
your views on 'fittest'.

What did change genetically  as we became human is in the
cognitive realm: our ability to look at what we're doing,
communicate about it in depth with our fellow band members,
and discuss how we might want to do things differently.
Chimps can't do that; each generation behaves just like the
previous. As a consequence, everything we have learned about
indigenous, pre-agricultural societies indicates that they
have always been egalitarian and cooperative internally,
though they defend their territories like other primates.

We need to keep in mind that we've been FULLY human for
about 100,000 years; a baby from back then, if adopted into
a modern family at birth, would be just like the rest of us,
and could go to college and get a PhD (depending on
individual variations  of course). By at least 100,000 years
ago we rejected the alpha-male social structure; we
developed more sensible cultures, and passed them on to each
new generation, much like we educate our young today.  Our
further evolution was occurring in the cultural realm, while
our genetics remained relatively static. More recently, it
is our technology that is evolving most rapidly, with our
cultural evolution being relatively static (so far).

Hunter-gatherer bands are always relatively small, and
there's not enough economic excess to support a dominant
leader who refuses to do his share. This is one reason the
egalitarian structures maintained themselves for nearly
100,000 years. When agriculture came along, the economics
changed drastically. It became possible for an aggressive
clique, or an invading tribe, to dominate the band, take
control of the agricultural production and storehouses, and
spend their own time sharpening their swords and keeping the
peasants in the fields. This is what Eisler means by
'dominator cultures'. For the previous 100,000 years we had
'partnership cultures'.

In both kinds of cultures, each new child is socialized into
the culture. In partnership cultures, the child is taught to
limit its aggressive tendencies sufficiently to conform to
the norms of the culture.  There are always sanctions for
those who don't learn, with banishment being one of the
heaviest. In a dominator culture, the child is taught
different lessons. The genetic tendency toward
aggressiveness is always there - and always will be there -
and if the culture encourages it, it will blossom. American
culture is particularly strongly oriented towards
encouraging competition in its youth, beginning in our
schools.More so than in Britain or Europe.

These are the considerations that lead me to say that it is
our cultures we need to change, not our natures. We can't
change our natures, not unless you want to get into genetic
engineering. And there's nothing wrong with our natures; we
had the wisdom to develop and maintain partnership cultures
for thousands of years. When we grow up in a more
enlightened culture, we tend to develop the more enlightened
aspects of our selves. In that sense, if we change our
cultures, we do in effect change our exhibited 'natures' as
well. Native Americans were noted for their deep integrity
and wisdom. That wasn't because of different genes.

My proposals about harmonization, beginning in a community
context, are aimed at enabling a cultural transformation.
People who go through these kinds of processes do tend to
come out 'changed' in various ways at a personal level. Most
important, from a political perspective, people shift their
understanding regarding the potential power of mutual
understanding and cooperation, and the pointlessness of
divisiveness and destructive competition.
-- 

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